Dear Elephants Larry

The Elephants Larry have a new podcast, and when the fourth episode was released last week, I noticed a trend in the length of the podcast. I decided to go all "Nate Silver" on them and make some predictions based on the data at hand.

As you can see in the graph above, the length of each episode has increased, compared to the one before. When this trend continues, after just 38 weeks of podcasting, their show will be 5 hours long. This will be a big commitment for the guys, I'm sure, but it's nothing compared to the commitment 27.5 years from now when they'll have to start recording their entire lives for one week in order to post that week-long episode at the end of the week. They'll also have to start recording the next week's podcast BEFORE they finish the previous one, since that next week's episode will last longer than the week between episodes. Whoa. I just blew your mind.

In case you haven't seen it yet, you should also check out their pilot "The WOW" in which I play not one but two small roles! One where I have a line and one where I am blindfolded. See for yourself! (Note: Contains swears.)

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still here.

In case it's been a while since you talked to me, we're in NY now after Spoons' graduation, a fun summer in/around Geneva, a 3+ week trip to Southeast Asia, and a transcontinental move.

For more on these adventures, see:

Spoons' Graduation

good times.

Southeast Asia

Lao Buddhas

Moving to NY

dining room table!

Halloween in NY

love that intensity!

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I recently finished writing up my February trip to Morocco. You can see all the photos and my comments on them at flickr:

djemaa el fna at dusk

Now for food, let's get right down to it!

Sunday: A good food day. Bittman savory breakfast --  whole grain (this time it was barley) with soy sauce, sesame oil, a fried egg on top, and scallions. Super tasty! It reminded me how much I like Bi bim bop, and how I should try to make that sometime. (Bi Bim Bop is great at University Cafe in Ann Arbor and Oishii Cafe in Pittsburgh.)

Lunch: met miniGrollman and walked around Geneva, trying to find someplace open on a Sunday. Ended up getting pizza at Molino on the Place du Molard -- the best thing about it was that it was open. :)

Dinner: Red thai curry (used curry paste from the asian grocery store) with eggplants, peppers, basil, coconut milk & shrimp.

Monday: I made enchiladas! We don't have good tortillas here (too far from Mexico, I guess) so we brought some corn tortillas back with us from the US when we came back from Christmas. After using a bunch for tacos, we tossed them in the freezer and I got them out this week for enchilada-making. For the insides, I used roasted chicken that tossed with a lot of lime, cilantro, and green onion, and something like this mole sauce for the top. I also got some tips from a Rick Bayless enchilada recipe -- warming up the tortillas in the oven before making the enchiladas really helped stop them from breaking up.

Tuesday:  Leftover enchiladas. As sides, we served rice with tomatoes and butternut squash. I have always really liked butternut squash and Mexican food -- especially with black beans.

Wednesday: Tofu fried up in a pan, miso eggplant, rice. We have a lot of LHC Memorial Miso (from people who've moved back to the US) so this seemed like a good way to use some of it up. The eggplants were way tasty, but so, so sweet. Next time, less sugar.

Thursday: Dinner in Geneva at Little India with S&N. We liked it, though the Geneva prices for Indian (30-40 CHF (about $30) per person) still seem a little steep, even after 2 years.

Friday: Friends arrive from out of town -- our first attempt at making rösti. It's a German/Swiss dish that they have a lot in the mountains. Basically, it's hash browns. And then you put stuff on it. We had an excellent one in Bern that was potatoes with a little bit of applesauce on them, then bacon, topped with melted raclette cheese. There was another good-looking version recently at the CERN cafeteria -- really nice, crispy potatoes with a creamy mushroom sauce on the top and hot sun-dried-looking tomatoes. At our place, we offered applesauce, cheese, a fried egg on top, some broccoli that we'd already cooked, and maybe a few other things. The potatoes came out OK, but not as crispy as I would have liked. I think I need more patience. :)

Saturday: Veggiefest! Vegetarians in the house! A bunch of people came over (maybe there were 12 of us?) and everyone made many excellent dishes including indian cauliflower and lentil ones. G&J brought chocolate chip cookies that had as bonus ingredients: almonds, dried cherries, and cointreau. I thought they were super-awesome. Rose was saying she enjoyed the indian dishes, did we know how we cooked them? The answer was ... no. Katrina, Toyo, and I were all seasoning and stirring as we went by, but this was one case where many cooks did *not* spoil the soup. 

So you need to use up some miso? I just made a recipe for vegetarian tortilla soup from Berley's fresh food fast that called for 1/2 cup of miso! I think he's crazy. I reduced it to 1/4 cup and it was very tasty. I would never have thought to make a mexican tortilla soup with a miso base, but it worked out really well. I'll post the recipe soon.
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the veritable dorade rose

These are some food thoughts from a few weeks ago... will catch up to this week soon, I hope:

Sunday: Anchovy pasta for lunch (something like this), dinner of barley cooked with savory veggie broth, topped with green onions, sides of butternut squash and broccoli rabe

Monday: A bunch of people came over for BSG watching, and we made Texas beef chili with cornbread and vinegar-y cole slaw, AKA "Brassica Mixta." I think we cooked the chili for about 5 hours on Sunday and shredded it on Monday. It was a hit!

Tuesday: Salted and pressed, thin-sliced, floured, skillet-cooked, oven-finished eggplant, chickpeas with a bunch of random stuff (red pepper, tomato, ginger, unsweetened coconut...) and rice. As I was cooking this and thinking about how I would describe it, I realized how little I use recipes sometimes these days. I used to use them *all the time,* so it's a pretty big change for me. I did glance briefly at a recipe using unsweetened coconut, to see if I should add it early or late (answer: late. toasted.) The eggplant dish is one we make with really fresh eggplants, and the salting + draining thing really does seem to matter. They turn out with the best outside-crispy, inside-soft texture.

Wednesday: Dinner at "O! Canada!" House, followed by Karaoke. On a Wednesday! I know. The Baum made some kick-ass food, including steaks with a lot of Roquefort sauce.

Thursday: Spoons and I went out to dinner in our own hood. We went to a vietnamese place I hadn't been to before. The vinegar-y salad was deeee-licious and the other dishes were good, too. All those hot, sour, salty, sweet flavors.

Friday: Pasta with some kind of a red sauce that we made quickly. I remember there was a little bacon involved. And salad. I made a few things to take to a housewarming party, including a big batch of Sidecars -- a great thing to make when you have just TOO MUCH Cognac around. Spoons and I tested a few different proportions -- 1 cognac : 1 cointreau : 1 lemon juice tasted best to us. 2 cognac : 1 : 1 was a bit too alcoholic (just drink the cognac, then) and 1 : 2 cointreau : 1 tasted too syrupy. We also added a little sparkling water to the finished bottle of drinks and shook it with lots of ice. It was enjoyed by many.

Saturday: Everything Italian looked amazing at the farmers' market, and I relized it's probably because it is a lot warmer there! I got a bunch of lovely greens labelled "minestra," which I thought was the name of the kind of greens, but it turns out that "minestra" means soup. Oh. Ok. For dinner we had fishes: dorade/sea bream baked whole with rice and the undetermined "minestra" green.

Here is a picture of our fish, "Veritable dorade rose Bretonne" which means "Genuine pink dorade from Britanny." This fish was OK, but it had a texture a lot like chicken breast meat.

I'd been looking for a while for a guide to choosing fish here, something like the awesome Seafood Watch in the US, but hadn't found a good one until I googled "dorade rose." I found this one, for the WWF Switzerland, which says to avoid Dorade Rose AT ALL COSTS. Oh. Well, now we know where to look. Sorry, Dorade Rose. We didn't like your chicken-texture that much anyway.

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two! two! two weeks in one!

I'm still working on the Morocco 2009 wrap-up, but in the meantime, here are some food thoughts from the past two weeks.

Sunday (Feb 8): Arrived home from Morocco! After a week of tagines and cous cous and meat, meat, meat, all I really want for lunch is plain pasta with butter. For dinner, we made some indian food: tofu, red lentils, and spicy broccoli rabe. Vegetables taste good.

Monday: Duck breast with red wine sauce, served with rice and more broccoli rabe. We made it a lot like this, but not quite as fast:

Or, take a look at the actual recipe (which we didn't use at all) and a higher-quality video. For the duck that we get here, we find that putting it in the oven makes it too overdone, so we just finish it in the cast iron pan and let it rest.

Tuesday: Pasta with saucisson (AKA cured sausage), tomatoes, onions, pecorino romano, red wine.

Wednesday: Chicken leek barley soup. There's no chicken-broth-in-can here, so we make our own, usually on weekends. After dinner, chocolate cake sounded like a really good idea.

Chocolate cake:

Combine the following dry ingredients:
1 c sugar
1 c flour
1/2 c cocoa powder
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

In another bowl, combine the wet ingredients:
1/2 c milk
1/4 c vegetable oil
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones, stir in 1/2 cup boiling water. Put batter into, for example, a 9" round cake pan. I used a non-stick one, so I didn't bother to grease/flour it. Bake about 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

When I made this, I didn't have a lot of the ingredients, so I substituted whatever sounded good. It may seem like a bad idea to mess with recipes when baking, but I just tossed in some (unmeasured) melted chocolate for missing cocoa powder, crème fraîche and water for milk, less oil, and I rounded all the dry ingredients to those shown above (the recipe called for 7/8 cup of flour or something silly). The resulting cake was tasty and moist, and probably un-reproducible.

Thursday: at Chez Swedes, we cooked for our skiing-accident-incapacitated friend. We made veggie moroccan tagine (recipe) with chickpeas and sweet potatoes and other good things.

Friday: C$ and Jimmy D came over for some mushroom risotto with lots of pecorino romano and 3 mushrooms: Dried cèpes/porcini (courtesy of C$), fresh pleurotes/oyster mushrooms, and fresh cremini. Also salad, and many cheeses for dessert! If you want to hone your risotto-making skills, I highly recommend the chapter in the Zingerman's Guide to Good Eating which explains how fast and easy it can be. Here are the three kinds of mushrooms taken from people's flickr streams:

Pleurotus ostreatus / Pleurote en forme d'huître
Originally uploaded by Jules***

The porcini mushrooms
Originally uploaded by jmvnoos in Paris

Originally uploaded by e.sarah.c

Saturday: Fish & chips, using up the last of the french fries in our freezer. We got a good haul of free food before Christmas from people moving or leaving for extended holidays, and a big bag of french fries was leftover from that. Big salad of many vegetables.

Sunday: For lunch, I made salsa and we had polenta with fried eggs and spicy tomato salsa. One of my favorites -- this reminds me of brunch in Chicago at Flo.

Also made rice pudding, based on this rice pudding recipe from epicurious. 

New Master Rice Pudding Recipe:

- mix 1 rice : 1 sugar : 8 milk : little butter, little salt, little vanilla
- cook on low, with no lid, for an hour or two - watch that it doesn't boil!
- mix in one beaten egg after you take it off the heat (optional)

I usually make: 1/2 cup rice, 1/2 cup sugar, 4 cups milk, 1 Tbsp butter, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp vanilla for four servings

Dinner on Sunday: Stir fry with tofu, sesame seeds, black bean paste, broccoli, red peppers, cilantro.

Monday: Indian food -- yellow lentils Naveen-style, tiny green eggplants sauteed with ginger, spicy okra & rice. Made lots of leftovers for lunches.

Tuesday: Pasta with egg and cheese (something like this) and salad. 

Wednesday: Indian leftovers, now with sauteed spinach instead of okra.

Thursday: Duck confit, bulghur wheat side dish*, and salad. (Lots of salad this week...) We brought some duck confit home with us for Christmas because we like it so much. It's just duck, in a can, ready to eat. The pieces of duck are still whole, so it's not exactly like spam, but it's just about as easy. We usually pull the pieces out of the can and broil them for a few minutes before serving. Gourmet magazine had a Paris issue that I saw last year in an airport, and it had a lot of recipes to use the already-made duck confit that I keep meaning to try. They include one for a white bean soup with Armagnac and the pieces of duck in it, one for asian-style noodles with duck, and another for a salad with oranges.

Friday: Over at D+KW's we had pizza from a place in our little village. They had cooked some other food, but then their power went out! That's another story. One of the pizzas had a very creamy goat cheese on it. It was super-French tasting -- pizza with goat cheese!? -- and totally delicious.

Saturday: Fish from the market: "bar de ligne," broccoli, and the rice dish made by our power-less friends from the night before. "Bar de ligne" -- I think -- is a fish called "bar" (AKA "European Seabass" or "branzino") that is line-caught ("de ligne"). We usually pick the fish that looks the best at the market and then figure out what the heck it is when we get home. 

We cooked the fish wrapped in parchment paper so that it steams well. It looked kind of like the branzino in this post, but instead of Thai spices and shallots, we put fennel, onions, parsley, lemon, olive oil, and white wine with our whole fish. One thing that definitely worked was that spoons mixed all this good stuff in a bowl together and tasted it before the fish was even out of the fridge. In the past, I've salted the fish, then put lemon on and olive oil, then tried to add other spices, but by putting all the ingredients in the bowl besides the fish, we could really make sure the flavor was good before it was applied to the fish. After it was cooked, we fileted it and served it with some of the vegetable mixture. Our friend Liz laughed: "It looks like grown-up food!" and said she never cooks fish. We assured her that you can just buy a filet and cook it in a pan... no need to get parchment paper involved unless you feel like it. :)

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week in food: end of Jan

I just got back from a week in Morocco! I was there for work, and I wrote a bit more about it on the US LHC blog, so you can read about it there. I'll post some pictures soon.

Before I talk about all the tasty things I had in Morocco (cous cous, tagines, cous cous, and tagines) I wanted to wrap up the week before I left.

Sunday: Picked spoons up at the airport very early, so we had a breakfast of toast and jam and things, then a brunch later in the day. I'd picked up some smoked salmon at our little local store, so we ate it with eggs and creme fraiche and capers, good toast and potatoes. Salmon breakfast always makes me think of Chloe's in San Francisco, where they had an awesome scrambled eggs with chunks of salmon in the eggs, chunks of potatoes, and chunks of cream cheese! The cheese melted as you were eating it, and it was tasty. I can't remember what we had for dinner that night... leftovers?

Monday: We went to watch Battlestar Galactica at a friend's place, so we had a quick dinner after work of leftover potatoes, rotisserie chicken from the market, and sauteed cabbage with whole cumin and mustard seeds and other good spices.

Tuesday: Dinner was orange-colored indian food: ginger carrots, spicy red lentils, tasty basmati rice.

Wednesday: Our friend HH arrives! We had a bunch of good red wine and a traditional French dinner of barely cooked red meat with french fries (AKA "frites") and sauteed broccoli. Because spoons and HH and I were all talking while we were cooking, and spoons was cooking half the things and I was cooking the other half and not paying attention, I burned the broccoli. It was the first time in a long time that I've burned anything. We cut off the burnt parts and ate it anyway. :)

Thursday: Crazy soup with eggs. This is a favorite dish of spoons' because it has so many great flavors, and because you finish it with a medium-cooked egg. It's a soup from a Paula Wolfert cookbook, The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen. You can search inside the book on amazon, so I took these screen shots from there. (Click on the pictures to read the recipe.) You can also use amazon's "Look inside" yourself to search for "chickpea" and find the same pages and the ones around them.

The soup is a slow-cooked one, where chickpeas are simmered for hours to create a delicious broth. For a vegetarian version, just leave out the bones and it will still be tasty. Then, garnish the chickpeas+broth with lemon juice, salty olives and capers, spicy red pepper sauce, black pepper and cumin. Serve over crusty pieces of bread and break a medium-cooked egg over the top to add richness to the soup. If you're like me, you can cook the egg even more, but if you're like spoons, that runny yolk will be the best part!

I also made banana bread that night, with spoons' mom's banana bread recipe. When I am too enthusiastic with my banana purchases, I like to make this. Sometimes I even peel the bananas and throw the mush into the freezer for a while. It will keep in the freezer until you feel like baking.

Mix together the ingredients in a big bowl:
1 c sugar
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 egg
3/4 cup milk
1.5 - 2 cups of mashed bananas (as many as you have, really...)
2.5 cups flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

Pour into a greased pan of whatever size you like. If you make a big bread loaf, you'll need to bake it for an hour or more at 350 degrees F. When you stick a fork/toothpick in to test for doneness, it's OK if it is a little moist still, but you don't want giant wet clumps of batter to come out.

Friday: We spent Friday night getting ready for a housewarming party - our friend T made delicious spicy pasta (with chunks of potatoes in with the penne!) and pizza at her place. We also made a few housewarming items for the new guys, including a pinata. Long story.

Saturday: We had a bon-voyage breakfast with HH of delicious eggs and bacon from the market - I used brioche bread and tried to make the eggs cook inside a circle cut into the toast: is that called a birds' nest? This was mildly successful. :) For dinner we went over to Chez W to visit with M&C and their kids who arrived back from a long trip to the US.

Sunday was my first day in Morocco... will write that week up next.

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weeks in food II & III

Looks like I'm not the only one on the internet who is blogging about their food choices for other people to ... skim over quickly. Mark Bittman, awesome NY Times food guy posted about all the food he ate while traveling last week. He ends up eating a lot of raw fruits and vegetables during the days -- I often feel like I don't get enough vegetables when I travel, and his approach could solve that. It looks a little rabbit-like at some points, but I do like all those foods.

To see what I think is the best of Bittman, check out this funny, interesting look at his take on eating. Well worth 20 minutes! He goes through a little bit of the history, pitfalls, and ways to deal with the US diet. Similar to Michael Pollan's "In Defense of Food" but funnier.

So, to catch up on my own list of recent dinners:

Monday: Meatballs, take two. The week before's meatballs turned out good, but strange. This time, we tried to reproduce a Moroccan dish we really liked when we were visiting there last summer.

The dish has a tomato sauce with lots of spices, pan-browned meatballs cooked in the sauce, and, best of all, eggs (one egg per person) poached in the sauce just before serving. You can kind of see them in the photo above.

It came out OK, but there was an unfortunate meatball incident. The meatballs fell apart while I was browning them, so they made the sauce more like a thick meat sauce, rather than a thinner sauce with meatballs in it. I think it was because I added oil that was supposed to be used in the pan into the meatball mixture instead by mistake, and that stopped the meat from sticking together. It still tasted good, though.

We served it with bread and a Moroccan shredded carrot salad. The recipes we used were from the excellent and inspiring Couscous and other Good Food by Paula Wolfert. 

Tuesday: Easy dinner of sausages, brussel sprouts, and mashed potatoes

Wednesday: Risotto, which I'll call "harlequin risotto" instead of "ugly risotto." We put red wine in, which always makes the risotto come out a funny purple color. Adding bright orange chunks of butternut squash, and mushrooms to the already purple rice wasn't the best choice for a good-looking dish, but it came out with a good flavor. I can only guess what the Top Chef judges would have said about its looks...

Thursday: Chicken tacos, with corn tortillas brought back from the US -- a luxury! They do have tortillas in the grocery store here but they often taste weird/sweet/bad enough that they make you look forward to the real thing. Also had sauteéd red & green peppers, black beans, spicy rice, onions and cilantro and limes.

Friday: on the way to Strasbourg! We arrived and met up with friends and had drinks and snacks. I'll put all the Strasbourg food into a separate post.

Sunday night: back home, quick dinner of soup-from-a-box (something like quinoa vegetables soup?) and salad

Monday: spoons took off to Savannah, Georgia, for a week for a conference. I made a bunch of baked pasta that I could take for lunch. I used something like this vodka penne recipe, with wine instead of vodka, tossed it with already cooked pasta and put mozzarella cheese on top before putting it in the oven. I also mixed in some leftover peppers from the Mexican food.

Tuesday: Inauguration night! I brought another batch of those good brownies from last week to a potluck dinner at D & K's. K made a tasty bean chili dish with rice in it -- I'll try to get the recipe and post it.

Wednesday: Use up rest of Mexican leftovers from last week: black beans, rice, enchiladas, and add butternut squash. Black beans + butternut squash is always a good combination in my book.

Thursday: Out for dinner with friends at a local Irish pub: Paddy's. Had "Irish stew" which is big chunks of potato, carrot, and lamb in a tasty broth, and Guinness, of course.

Friday: not feeling so hot, I don't know if I even ate anything for dinner... crackers? soup?

Saturday: ditto, rice with chicken broth...

Sunday: feeling better. spoons returns. on to the next week!

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